I am a Facebook user, though I am pretty resentful about it. It's become one of those addictive time-sucks that modern technology has forced upon us in order to stay connected with the world, or in this case, friends and family.
It's like the advent of the cell phone, somehow we managed to live without it until we were forced to live with it. Hell, even homeless people have cell phones these days, so who am I to buck the trend?
But could our co-dependency on Facebook be coming to an end this fall? Depends whose side you are on.
I first came in contact with Anonymous in 2008 while covering Scientology. Though most of my personal interactions with members have been pleasant, they are definitely dangerous when focused. Anonymous seems to have some kind of hierarchy, though very loose, fluid and difficult to pinpoint. Like a tsunami, they descend on their intended target in an intimidating wave of numbers, overwhelming their opposition, only to disperse just as quickly. Passionate about their beliefs, but quick to move on seems to be their modus operandi.
In an ominous video posted on YouTube, titled "Message from Anonymous: Operation F," a robotic voice details the complaints lodged against Facebook, the social media website used by over 300 million people, including your mother.
According to the video, Facebook is accused of:
...selling its users private data to 'government agencies, and giving clandestine access to information security firms so that they can spy on people from all around the world. Some of these so called whitehat infosec firms are working for authoritarian governments, such as those of Egypt and Syria.
Everything you do on Facebook stays on Facebook regardless of your "privacy" settings, and deleting your account is impossible, even if you "delete" your account, all your personal info stays on Facebook and can be recovered at any time. Changing the privacy settings to make your Facebook account more "private" is also a delusion. Facebook knows more about you than your family.
You cannot hide from the reality in which you, the people of the internet, live in. Facebook is the opposite of the Antisec cause. You are not safe from them nor from any government. One day you will look back on this and realise what we have done here is right, you will thank the rulers of the internet, we are not harming you but saving you..."
You can read the entire manifesto here.
The battle is slated to begin on November 5, 2011, which is the commemoration date in England of the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot. Guy Fawkes is essentially Anonymous' spiritual progenitor. Fawkes was a Catholic crusader and one of 13 conspirators who had plotted to kill King James I of England. Fawkes was caught on the evening of November 5th guarding a stash of gunpowder, which was to be used to blow up Parliament. Fawkes (who was born in York, England and fought for the Spanish Catholics in the Eighty Years War against the Dutch) was tortured over several days and was defiant during the initial days of his captivity.
However, Fawkes' torture was amplified as King James I was pressuring to get the names of his co-conspirators. Eventually Fawkes cracked and named his accomplices (eight in total) all of whom, including Fawkes, were found guilty of treason. On January 31, 1606, Fawkes and three of his co-conspirators were to be hanged, then drawn and quartered. Fawkes was the last of the four to climb the scaffold to be hanged, and instead, jumped to his death to avoiding the ultimate pain and humiliation of his barbaric execution.
So there you have it, a legendary figure who stood against the tyrants of his time, with courage and defiance, who serves as inspiration to a modern group of disobedient civilians who use the Internet to wage war against targets they deem as hostile to freedom of speech, privacy, democracy, and whatever.
Personally, I have no dog in this fight, but I do love a good battle of wits, so count me as one of the global citizens who, with computer in hand, will watch as these two monolithic entities battle it out to the death, or at least until someone gets bored.
November 5, 2011: mark your calendar, Mark Zuckerburg, you have a date with Anonymous.